Blog Post: The Principles Upon Which You Live

Linda Elder
Jan 27, 2022 • 2y ago
The Principles Upon Which You Live

{"ops":[{"insert":"Everyone lives according to principles which we can see manifest in their behavior. These principles are based on personal guides for conduct and are usually at the unconscious level. But these principles are not necessarily rooted in a “guiding sense of the requirements and obligations of right conduct,” which is a different use of the term "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"principle"},{"insert":".\n \nWhat principles guide your thinking, your decisions, and your actions? To what degree do you control these principles? To what degree do you even know what these principles are? Can you identify them in your thinking? What would other people say your principles are, based on what they see in your behavior?\n \nIn his autobiography,Benjamin Franklin presents a list of principles he had developed over time and aspired to live in accordance with. \n\nHere is an excerpt from his book which illuminates how a person might conceptualize principles upon which to live and then hold himself or herself accountable to adhere to them:\n \n\n"},{"attributes":{"align":"center","indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"PLAN FOR ATTAINING MORAL PERFECTION"},{"attributes":{"align":"center"},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"It was about this time I conceived the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection. I wish'd to live without committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into. As I knew, or thought I knew, what was right and wrong, I did not see why I might not always do the one and avoid the other. But I soon found I had undertaken a task of more difficulty than I had imagined. While my care was employ'd in guarding against one fault, I was often surprised by another; habit took the advantage of inattention; inclination was sometimes too strong for reason. I concluded, at length, that the mere speculative conviction that it was our interest to be completely virtuous, was not sufficient to prevent our slipping; and that the contrary habits must be broken, and good ones acquired and established, before we can have any dependence on a steady, uniform rectitude of conduct. For this purpose I therefore contrived the following method."},{"attributes":{"align":"justify","indent":2},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"In the various enumerations of the moral virtues I had met with in my reading, I found the catalogue more or less numerous, as different writers included more or fewer ideas under the same name. Temperance, for example, was by some confined to eating and drinking, while by others it was extended to mean the moderating every other pleasure, appetite, inclination, or passion, bodily or mental, even to our avarice and ambition. I propos'd to myself, for the sake of clearness, to use rather more names, with fewer ideas annex'd to each, than a few names with more ideas; and I included under thirteen names of virtues all that at that time occurr'd to me as necessary or desirable, and annexed to each a short precept, which fully express'd the extent I gave to its meaning."},{"attributes":{"align":"justify","indent":2},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"These names of virtues, with their precepts, were:"},{"attributes":{"align":"justify","indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"1. Temperance"},{"attributes":{"align":"justify","indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation."},{"attributes":{"align":"justify","indent":2},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"2. Silence."},{"attributes":{"align":"justify","indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation."},{"attributes":{"align":"justify","indent":2},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"3. Order."},{"attributes":{"align":"justify","indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time."},{"attributes":{"align":"justify","indent":2},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"4. Resolution."},{"attributes":{"align":"justify","indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve."},{"attributes":{"align":"justify","indent":2},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"5. Frugality."},{"attributes":{"align":"justify","indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"i. e."},{"insert":", waste nothing."},{"attributes":{"align":"justify","indent":2},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"6. Industry."},{"attributes":{"align":"justify","indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions."},{"attributes":{"align":"justify","indent":2},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"7. Sincerity."},{"attributes":{"align":"justify","indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly."},{"attributes":{"align":"justify","indent":2},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"8. Justice."},{"attributes":{"align":"justify","indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty."},{"attributes":{"align":"justify","indent":2},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"9. Moderation."},{"attributes":{"align":"justify","indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"Avoid extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve."},{"attributes":{"align":"justify","indent":2},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"10. Cleanliness."},{"attributes":{"align":"justify","indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation."},{"attributes":{"align":"justify","indent":2},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"11. Tranquillity."},{"attributes":{"align":"justify","indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable."},{"attributes":{"align":"justify","indent":2},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"12. Chastity…."},{"attributes":{"align":"justify","indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"13. Humility…."},{"attributes":{"align":"justify","indent":2},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"My intention being to acquire the "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"habitude"},{"insert":" of all these virtues, I judg'd it would be well not to distract my attention by attempting the whole at once, but to fix it on one of them at a time; and, when I should be master of that, then to proceed to another, and so on, till I should have gone thro' the thirteen; and, as the previous acquisition of some might facilitate the acquisition of certain others, I arrang'd them with that view, as they stand above. Temperance first, as it tends to procure that coolness and clearness of head, which is so necessary where constant vigilance was to be kept up, and guard maintained against the unremitting attraction of ancient habits, and the force of perpetual temptations. This being acquir'd and establish'd, Silence would be more easy; and my desire being to gain knowledge at the same time that I improv'd in virtue, and considering that in conversation it was obtain'd rather by the use of the ears than of the tongue, and therefore wishing to break a habit I was getting into of prattling, punning, and joking, which only made me acceptable to trifling company, I gave "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Silence"},{"insert":" the second place. This and the next, "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Order"},{"insert":", I expected would allow me more time for attending to my project and my studies. "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Resolution"},{"insert":", once become habitual, would keep me firm in my endeavours to obtain all the subsequent virtues; "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Frugality"},{"insert":" and Industry freeing me from my remaining debt, and producing affluence and independence, would make more easy the practice of Sincerity and Justice, etc., etc. Conceiving then, that, agreeably to the advice of Pythagoras"},{"attributes":{"script":"super","color":"#0563c1","link":""},"insert":"[67]"},{"insert":" in his Golden Verses, daily examination would be necessary, I contrived the following method for conducting that examination."},{"attributes":{"align":"justify","indent":2},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"I made a little book, in which I allotted a page for each of the virtues."},{"attributes":{"script":"super","color":"#0563c1","link":""},"insert":"[68]"},{"insert":" I rul'd each page with red ink, so as to have seven columns, one for each day of the week, marking each column with a letter for the day. I cross'd these columns with thirteen red lines, marking the beginning of each line with the first letter of one of the virtues, on which line, and in its proper column, I might mark, by a little black spot, every fault I found upon examination to have been committed respecting that virtue upon that day."},{"attributes":{"align":"justify","indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \n---\nTo assess Franklin’s principles, we would in some cases need to know more of what he meant for a given principle or category. Notwithstanding this fact, we can admire the strong points in Franklin’s list.\n\nNow create your own list of principles according to which you intend to live as you continue to improve your fairminded critical thinking abilities and character traits. In doing so consider the following six hallmarks of critical societies – noting the principles embedded in each one:\n \nCritical societies will develop only to the extent that these dimensions are present. Each overlaps with, and illuminates, all the others.\n \n1. "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Critical thinking is highly valued when people in the culture:"},{"insert":"\n• see critical thinking as essential to living reasonably, rationally, and fruitfully.\n• come to understand, from an early age, that, generally speaking, the development of their thinking takes precedence over their development in every other skill area, because the quality of every part of their life, and their ability to live peacefully with other people, depends on the quality of their thinking.\n• continue to develop the skills, abilities, and traits of the disciplined mind throughout life.\n• understand that the development of critical thinking occurs in stages and in accordance with one’s level of commitment and willingness to practice.\n• are committed to becoming increasingly more skilled at fairminded critical thinking over time.\n• recognize the importance of all people in societies learning to think critically, and work together to help one another develop intellectually.\n \n2. "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"The problematics in thinking are an abiding concern when people in the culture:"},{"insert":"\n• recognize that everyone falls prey to mistakes in thinking, and therefore are constantly on the lookout for problems in their own thinking and in the thinking of others.\n• systemically discourage closedmindedness and systematically encourage openmindedness.\n• recognize egocentric and sociocentric thinking as significant barriers to critical thought.\n• routinely study and diminish irrational thought.\n• avoid manipulating, controlling, or using others to serve their selfish interests; avoid being manipulated, controlled, or used by others.\n• recognize and guard against the natural tendencies of the human mind toward self-deception, rationalization, hypocrisy, conformism, intellectual arrogance, and other related pathologies.\n \n3. "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Intellectual virtues are consistently fostered when people in the culture:"},{"insert":"\n• think for themselves and avoid uncritically accepting the thinking or behavior of others.\n• regularly and routinely enter the viewpoints of those with whom they disagree, in order to understand those viewpoints and to acknowledge any merit that might be found in them.\n• encourage and foster multicultural worldviews; consider themselves citizens of the world, just as concerned with the well-being of all people on the planet as they are with the well-being of their own families, neighbors, societies, and countries.\n• routinely and willingly engage in open, free discussion when reasoning through issues and problems.\n• do not fear new ideas and ways of looking at things. Rather, they regularly think within ideas that may at first seem “strange” or “dangerous” in order to understand them.\n• are not trapped in ideological systems.\n• systematically apply the same standards to themselves as they do to others, expecting as much (or more) from themselves as they do of others.\n• regularly seek and willingly admit to problems in their reasoning.\n• regularly distinguish between what they know and don’t know.\n• believe deeply in the idea that their interests, and those of society, are best served by giving the freest play to reason.\n• regularly examine their beliefs and are willing to publicly disagree with others on issues they have deeply thought through.\n• persevere through the difficulties in issues and problems, using their best reasoning abilities; do not give up when faced with complexities in thought.\n• communicate and relate with others through civility and mutual respect.\n \n4. "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Ethical reasoning is systematically fostered when people in the culture:"},{"insert":"\n• treat the rights and needs of others as equal to their own.\n• do not use other people to serve their selfish interests.\n• are routinely encouraged and expected to question the rules, mores, requirements, and taboos of the culture.\n• are taught the important distinctions between ethics, social rules, laws, and religious belief systems.\n• do not confuse theological beliefs and social rules with ethics.\n• do not see their groups as superior to other groups in terms of fundamental human rights.\n• do not perceive the rights of humans as superior to the rights of other sentient creatures.\n• use intellectual skills and abilities for the betterment of people and sentient creatures across the world, not to serve power and vested interests.\n• recognize the intimate connections between how we live today, the health of the planet, and the well-being of future generations.\n \n5."},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":" The analysis and assessment of reasoning are routinely used as primary tools for determining what to believe when people in the culture:"},{"insert":"\n• recognize the predominant role of reasoning in human thought—the fact that the main activity of the human mind is reasoning.\n• recognize that all reasoning contains eight elements: it targets purposes, formulates questions, pursues information, makes inferences, begins with assumptions, is shaped by concepts, is guided by a point of view, and leads to implications.\n• are skilled at analyzing thinking; routinely analyze their own and others’thinking in order to assess its quality.\n• continually improve their ability to take thinking apart in order to better understand it and find potential flaws in it.\n• routinely assess reasoning using universal intellectual standards such as clarity, accuracy, relevance, breadth, depth, logic, precision, and fairness.\n• are keenly aware of the relationship between uses of language and the mind’s conceptualizations, and routinely study connections between the two.\n• do not use language to manipulate other people; do not allow other people to manipulate them through their use of language.\n• recognize the important role of questions in living a rational life; recognize that thinking is driven by questions, that significant questions lead to\nsignificant understandings, and that superficial questions lead to superficial understandings.\n• recognize that their points of view, assumptions, and conceptualizations guide the ways in which they interpret information and influence the conclusions they come to.\n \n6. "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Freedom of thought and action are protected when people in the culture:"},{"insert":"\n• work together to protect the maximum freedoms for all people.\n• work together to minimize the number of laws in the society.\n• do not allow irrational power—through systems of justice, the police, or government—to undermine human freedoms.\n\n \n----------------------------------------------------------------------------\nThe definition in the first paragraph came from: \n\nThe Franklin quotes were taken from this link: "},{"attributes":{"color":"#0563c1","link":""},"insert":""},{"insert":". Franklin began his autobiography in 1771, and likely made final revisions only months before his death in April 17, 1790.\n \nThe principles of fairminded critical societies was taken from "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Liberating the Mind"},{"insert":" by Linda Elder (Rowman & Littlefield 2019).\n"}]}

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